Delivering for Scotland’s environment : SEPA priorities for 2023-2024

  26 May 2023
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has today (26th May 2023) published its annual operating plan (AOP) for 2023-2024, outlining the agency's key delivery priorities for the upcoming year.

Under fresh leadership of Chief Executive, Nicole Paterson, the plan has a strong focus on communities, delivery of nationally important public services, public sector reform and tackling the climate and biodiversity emergencies. The plan also focuses on existing corporate plan targets as a bridge to a new three-year corporate plan to be published later this year.

The plan recognises SEPA’s delivery in 2022-2023 working to solve complex environmental issues, including internationally recognised innovation in COVID waste water testing; leading Scotland’s response to its tenth driest summer; two new bathing waters and having the best status on record. 

It notes SEPA’s work to help salmon return to the Garrell Burn for the first time in 100 years; piloting a new innovative three-day flood forecast and developing a new flood warning scheme. 

The agency authorised the first move of a waste vessel from the Cromarty Firth following SEPA’s moves to stop illegal export; helped prepare for the UK’s first deposit return scheme and supported the next steps for Scotland’s low emissions zones.

Looking forward, the agency’s regulatory focus will help protect Scotland’s environment from harm, adapt to a changing climate and improve the environment.  In addition to the publication of a refreshed and refocused regulatory approach, key priorities include;

  • working in partnership to target high risk environmental crime, clamping down on unlicensed operators
  • working in the Grangemouth Future Industries Hub to test out innovative approaches to achieve net zero and support a just transition
  • accelerating the transition to a circular economy by regulating Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme
  • preparing for the implementation of an integrated and simplified authorisation framework
  • supporting sustainable aquaculture by implementing our new sea lice risk assessment framework work with the Scottish Government, abstractors and others
  • helping prepare Scotland for drought
  • supporting the efforts of the Cleaner Air for Scotland 2 Delivery Plan

On flood risk management, SEPA’s work will help Scotland avoid the risk of future flooding to businesses and communities, help protect existing businesses and communities at risk, and warn when flooding is imminent so that action can be taken to reduce the impact.

Key priorities for 2023-2024 include;

  • implementing the flood risk requirements of the new national planning framework
  • supporting the Scottish Government on the development of their flooding strategy and related policy development
  • identifying and beginning to implement a set of measures to improve the resilience of our flooding services

SEPA Chief Executive, Nicole Paterson, said:

“As Scotland’s environmental watchdog, SEPA plays a key role in helping Scotland avoid, protect, improve, adapt and warn in a changing climate.  Communities, businesses, public and third sector partners rely on the nationally important services we deliver.

“Our Annual Operating Plan both recognises the impact of our work on Scotland’s environment and looks forward, with a fresh focus on communities and public service delivery.  More than that, it sets the stage for our work to help tackle the twin climate and biodiversity emergencies and importantly, confirms our commitment to modernisation, regulatory and public service reform as together we help build a greener, fairer, and more prosperous country."


Notes to editor